Mancini's industrial revolution working a treat
Roberto Mancini has thrown the catenaccio among the pigeons. The Italian's cautious game plan, swamping midfield with ball-winners and hitting on the counter to defeat Chelsea and open up the Premier League race, may not be a tactic to lift the soul but it might just lift a trophy. People have to start believing in the methods of this likeable perfectionist now.
Mancini's mantra reverberates through Manchester City's Carrington training retreat to their Eastlands stage, espousing the importance of industry on and off the pitch. The primacy of hard work colours Mancini's view of Adam Johnson, and underpinned his decision to make the tireless Carlos Tevez captain. Mancini knows there are no short cuts, no alternatives to endless diligence, if City are to outlast opponents over 90 minutes and then over a 10-month season.
Even in his hour of victory, that small post-match window when any victorious manager can shout the odds before the waves of pressure roll back in, Mancini did not deviate from his dogma.
"We must work to improve always -- every day,'' he stressed. It is why he has introduced double training sessions, depriving players of an afternoon at the Trafford Centre to fine-tune their pattern of play at Carrington. Although football came naturally to Mancini he knows the value of hard work to reach the summit and stay there.
This was the message Mancini delivered on the eve of sporting battle when mentioning that Johnson needed to avoid off-field distractions and when discussing Chelsea's championship credentials. He praised Carlo Ancelotti's side and emphasised that City would get close to them only through constant application. Yesterday's tactics took that philosophy a stage further.
Mancini's players certainly worked hard to get close to Ancelotti's. "We closed the space,'' mused Mancini. Mancini knows that fine details define outcomes. Branislav Ivanovic hit a post, Dedryk Boyata escaped those fouls, and Didier Drogba will surely not be this quiet again.
Yet City will offer greater imagination when the more attack-minded Jerome Boateng, who came on late, and Aleksandr Kolarov are properly installed at full-back.
Mario Balotelli's positioning will be interesting; unless Mancini uses him on the left wing, he should start up top with Tevez in the hole. Even if the line-up changes, Mancini's attitude will remain the same: work, work and more work. It's the only way.